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Intelligent Cooling Solutions for NVMe RAID Storage

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

HighPoint NVMe RAID Solutions feature unique, custom-designed cooling solutions built to combat the threat of thermal throttling.

HighPoint manufacturers the industry’s fastest NVMe RAID solutions. A lone PCIe Gen4 SSD series NVMe RAID HBA is capable of delivering up to 28,000MB/s of transfer bandwidth; the absolute maximum possible via a single Gen4 x16 PCIe slot.

Though hitting this 28K barrier is impressive on its own right, delivering this level of performance, in a sustained fashion over prolonged periods of time, is another matter entirely. This is where HighPoint NVMe solutions truly shine. However, the secret to HighPoint’s unbeatable sustained transfer performance is more than skin deep.

One key factor that many tend to overlook is our advanced NVMe cooling technology. Before HighPoint even entered the NVMe marketplace, we studied the ins-and-outs of the storage media. Undeniably fast, NVMe media puts all other contemporary storage interfaces to shame if one focuses purely on data transfer. An off-the-shelf Gen4 M.2 SSD can deliver upwards of 7000MB/s – over 3 times faster than enterprise class SAS SSDs costing hundreds to thousands more! However, this prodigious performance capability comes with one major caveat; waste heat. NVMe media can produce a tremendous amount of waste heat under load. Most NVMe SSDs were designed to address this risk to protect the integrity of their hardware, and will automatically handicap their transfer throughput when their temperature threshold has been crossed; a technique known as “thermal throttling”.

While thermal throttling can dramatically lower the transfer capabilities of a single SSD, the results can be truly detrimental when applied to an entire RAID array. As such, combatting the threat of Thermal Throttling is an essential component of a successful NVMe RAID storage solution. HighPoint designed our NVMe product lines to address this problem head on, starting on day 1.

Introducing Storage Health Inspector: a Complete Hardware & Software Monitoring Solution for NVMe RAID Storage

The ultimate goal of an “Intelligent” NVMe cooling system is not to simply deliver superior hardware; it should be a hardware and software package; a true solution for our customers.

In keeping with this vision, the unique cooling apparatus associated with each of our NVMe HBA product lines now merge seamlessly with our software management and monitoring suites, via HighPoint SHI technology. SHI, short for Storage Health Inspector, is a critical element of the WebGUI and CLI software utilities, and is ideal applications that depend on NVMe media. SHI provides wealth of information about the hosted NVMe SSDs, and enables administrators to instantly asses the temperature and operational status of each individual drive.

SHI is not a static management interface. The SMART monitoring capabilities are compatible with any industry standard NVMe SSD, and report data in real time. Administrators can configure the Event Log and Alert-Email Notification features to correspond with each target application. Of key importance, SHI provides customizable temperature thresholds which can be adjusted to exactly match each manufacturer’s recommended specifications, to ensure storage configuration operate at peak performance, free from the risk of thermal throttling.

First Generation Cooling System: Fully enclosed aluminum casing (SSD7101A-1)

Out first-generation cooling system is highly-effective, if rather straightforward. The SSD7101A-1 was first released in 2017, and featured a fully sealed all-aluminum enclosure that doubled as a heat-sink, and sported an integrated cooling fan and thermal padding. Similar in concept to a GPU, this system is easily able to cool 4 M.2 SSDs and the product’s critical controller componentry under load, even on a grueling 24/7 schedule. However, in retrospect, the unit is relatively bulky for a 4-disk solution, isn’t particularly quiet or energy efficient, and is more labor intensive when it comes to adding/removing M.2 media. This left room for some improvement in future designs.

Second Generation Cooling System: High-Port-Count NVMe Solutions

Our second-generation cooling system was designed for use with our first-gen PCIe 3.0 High-Port-Count NVMe RAID controllers, namely the SSD7140. The HBA directly housed up to 8 M.2 SSDs in a form factor that is only slightly longer than high-end GPU’s of the day. Despite this, we realized a fully enclosed aluminum case was too unwieldly for a card of this size. Instead, we opted for a full-length anodized aluminum heatsink with a pair of integrated low-noise cooling fans and a layer of thermal padding that makes direct contact with the M.2 media. The single heatsink/fan unit was a boon for matters of serviceability; it could be removed as a single piece, and greatly simplified the installation process. This design also proved to be very effective in real world workflows – it was the first unit that allowed provided fan-control settings out of the box (via the CLI or WebGUI management software) and was able to keep the controller’s innards and all eight M.2 SSDs within their temperature thresholds even under sustained load. The current version of this product, the SSD7140A, sports an improved version of this system, which was first designed for our PCIe Gen4 product line.

Third Generation Cooling-System; “Silent-Running”

Designed to address concerns raised by HD Media Professionals, our third-generation cooling-system opted for a “passive/active” approach. Our SSD7104, SSD7202 and SSD7204 products were designed for applications that demand a silent work environment, and by default, are equipped with fan-less “passive” cooling systems. This design incorporates a full-length anodized aluminum heat sink with thermal padding. This type of cooling solution is very effective when deployed into off-the-shelf media workstations, such as the 2019 Mac Pro and HP’s “Z” line. These systems are equipped with high-end cooling systems designed to address workflows that involve a large number of PCIe devices (such as a capture card, multiple GPUs, ethernet adapter + a PCIe based storage solution).

Customers that need a more “active” approach can simply relace the default system with our heat-sink + cooling fan combo, which is available as a plug-in accessory. These designs incorporate the low-decibel cooling fans originally developed for the SSD7140x, and are fully compatible with the WebGUI/CLI’s fan control features. This design is ideal for custom-built workstation and server platforms that employ conventional, off-the-shelf chassis cooling systems.

Fourth Generation Cooling-System; “Low-Noise Hyper-Cooling”

Our fourth-generation system was introduced for the SSD7540 PCIe Gen4 x16 8-Channel SSD7540 M.2 RAID controller. Dubbed “Low-noise Hyper-Cooling”, this system is an upgraded, refine version of our 2nd generation system, which was originally developed for the 8-port PCIe Gen3 SSD7140 HBA.

Low-Noise Hyper-Cooling does exactly as its name implies; it is capable of shielding up to 8 PCIe Gen4 M.2 NVMe SSDs from the threat of thermal throttling under full-load on a 24/7/365 working schedule without injecting unwanted noise into the working environment. It features full fan control (including the option to fully disable the fan), and is designed to work in conjunction with HighPoint’s SHI software solution (Storage Health Inspector), which enables administrators to closely monitor, log and manage the health, temperature and operational status of each individual NVMe SSD.

The system features a full-length anodized aluminum fan with integrated low-decibel cooling fans and thermal padding, and can be easily removed and reinstalled by anyone handy with a common screw driver. The unit requires minimal power, and draws current directly from the HBA via a discreet power cable.

Fifth Generation Cooling-System: SSD7749 Series Datacenter Class NVMe RAID HBAs

The SSD7749 series feature our fifth-generation NVMe cooling solution. Unlike our previous series, which were based on existing technology, albeit perfected for NVMe applications, this revolutionary cooling solution was designed to approach NVMe technology from an entirely new perspective.

The SSD7749 series are not only the fastest NVMe solutions in today’s marketplace, they are the most accessible. The cooling system is an integral part of the HBA architecture, and is incorporated directly into the E1.S/M.2 loading system and HBA chassis itself.

Unlike previous models, the SSD7749 series aluminum chassis does not need to be removed in order to access NVMe media. Instead, the cooling-system’s dual-fan unit doubles as “vault” door, which swings up and away from the chassis to expose the SSD slots at the press of a switch. The system is entirely toolless in nature, and enables administrators to install NVMe media in a cartridge like style – SSDs can be simply installed and ejected by hand, and secured to the HBA using the “vault” door.

The dual, low-decibel fans positioned at the far end of the SSD7749E’s aluminum casing were designed to draw in high volumes of cool air from within the system chassis, and funnel it towards the E1.S media and centrally mounted heat sink. Cool air is equally distributed through the interior of the HBA, and any remaining waste heat is immediately expelled via the vented bracket to the outside world. As with previous systems, it is designed to work in tandem with the HighPoint SHI solution via the WebGUI and CLI management suites, and features full fan control.

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